CONFLICTS OF INTEREST?

According to an investigation by independent news outlet The City, Mayor de Blasio is personally soliciting donations from sources looking to gain favor from his administration. The investigative reporter will join us to share their findings.

Read the full article here. 

Aired on April 30, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

MAYOR de BLASIO INSISTS HE FOLLOWED THE LAW.

BUT THE DEMOCRAT IS AGAIN ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT ETHICS AS HE FLIRTS WITH A RUN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.

A NEW INVESTIGATION FROM THE CITY, THE NONPROFIT NEWS WEBSITE, FOUND THAT HE IS PERSONALLY SOLICITING DONATIONS FOR HIS POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE.

THAT INCLUDES RAISING MONEY FROM PEOPLE LOOKING FOR FAVORABLE TREATMENT FROM CITY HALL.

HE'S USING SOME OF THAT MONEY TO PAY FOR HIS TRAVEL AS HE EXPLORES A PRESIDENTIAL BID.

LAST WEEK, WE TOLD BUT ANOTHER INVESTIGATION INVOLVING THE MAYOR AND HIS ETHICS.

THE CITY WAS ALSO BEHIND THAT STORY WHICH UNCOVERS THAT de BLASIO BROKE CITY ETHICS RULES DURING AN EARLIER FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN.

AND JOINING ME NOW IS THE CITY HALL REPORTER FOR THE CITY, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

WE'VE RECENTLY HAD THEM ON TO TALK ABOUT THE REPORT THAT YOU DID.

AND I'M WONDERING, WHAT WAS IT THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO UNBERTH THE MAYOR'S FUNDRAISING TACTICS?

WELL, THAT REPORT FOUND THAT HE HAD DIRECTLY SOLICITED DONATIONS FROM PEOPLE WITH BUSINESS PENDING BEFORE THE CITY AND HE HAD BEEN WARNED A FEW TIMES THAT THE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST BOARD DIDN'T WANT THAT TO HAPPEN.

SO WHAT WE DECIDED TO DO WAS SEE, WELL, LET'S SEE IF HIS BEHAVIOR HAS CHANGED.

HE HAS THIS NATIONAL, POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE.

CALLED THE FAIRNESS PAC.

AND WE WENT THROUGH THE LIST OF DONORS AND WE COMPARED TO IT VARIOUS DATA BASES THAT SHOW US WHO HAS BUSINESS PENDING BEFORE THE CITY.

AND WE FOUND AT LEAST A HALF DOZEN EXAMPLES WHERE THE MAYOR HAD REACHED OUT TO SOLICIT MONEY FROM THESE PEOPLE.

WELL, CAN YOU GIVE US ONE OF THOSE EXAMPLES?

I FEEL LIKE THAT'S REALLY WHAT WILL SEND IT HOME FOR PEOPLE.

SURE.

THERE'S THIS GROUP, A REAL ESTATE GROUP IN BROOKLYN.

THEY'RE BUILDING A 43 STORY LUXURY COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL BUILDING DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN.

AND THEY BASICALLY USED AN LLC TO REGISTER THIS PROPERTY.

THEY NEED A LOT OF PERMISSION FROM THE CITY TO DO DIFFERENT THINGS.

THERE'S BUILDING PERMITS, YOU KNOW, WHEN ANYTHING IS FOUND WRONG.

THEY NEED TO LOBBY THE BUILDINGS DEPARTMENT TO ALLOW THEM TO RESUME WORK.

AND THE THREE TOP OFFICIALS AT THIS GROUP ARE REGISTERED WITH THE CITY.

AND THE MAYOR THAT, I WON'T SOLICIT MONEY FROM THEM.

OKAY.

HOWEVER, THEY HAVE OTHER RELATIVES WORKING AT THE SAME COMPANY WHO ARE GIVING DONATIONS USING, YOU KNOW, USING A DIFFERENT NAME.

USING THE REAL NAME FOR THE COMPANY.

BUT THIS SPECIFIC PROJECT IS REGISTERED UNDER A DIFFERENT LLC NAME.

SO TECHNICALLY, THEY'RE NOT IN THE BUSINESS DATABASE ALTHOUGH COULD YOU ARGUE, THEY'RE CONNECTED TO THE FIRM DOING THE BIG PROJECT IN BROOKLYN.

SO WHILE ALL OF THIS SOUNDS SHADY FOR LACK OF A BETTER DESCRIPTION, ON THE SURFACE, IS ANY OF IT ACTUALLY ILLEGAL?

ANY LAWS BROKEN?

I THINK THAT'S WHERE A LOT OF THE ARGUMENT HAS HINGED, THE MAYOR'S FOLKS, THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE COMMITTEE ARE SAYING, ACCORDING TO POLITICAL CAMPAIGN LAWS, WE'RE DOING EVERYTHING BY THE BOOK AND EVEN GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND.

YOU ARE ALLOWED TO RAISE MONEY FROM PEOPLE DOING BUSINESS WITH THE CITY FOR POLITICAL CAMPAIGN.

ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU HAVE THESE PRIOR RULINGS BY THE CONFLICT OF INTEREST BOARD THAT ARE SAYING, THE MAYOR SHOULDN'T PERSONALLY SOLICIT DONATIONS FROM PEOPLE WITH BUSINESS PENDING BEFORE THE CITY.

SO IT IS A QUESTION OF, YOU KNOW, WHETHER YOU WANT TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION IN THE CONTEXT OF WHAT IS LEGAL OR ETHICAL.

WELL, HAS THERE BEEN ANY BLOWBACK FOR THE MAYOR OR HIS ADMINISTRATION?

WELL, THERE HAVE BEEN A COUPLE PEOPLE WHO HAVE DONATED TO CAMPAIGNS IN THE PAST, WHO HAVE BEEN CONVICTED ESSENTIALLY OF BRIBERY.

OF TRYING TO INFLUENCE CITY HALL DECISIONS THROUGH GIVING MONEY.

I THINK WHAT HAS BEEN CHEER THROUGHOUT THIS ADMINISTRATION IS THAT MONEY WILL BUY YOU ACCESS.

I THINK WHAT HAS BEEN HARDER TO PROVE IS, DOES IT GET YOU A FAVORABLE DECISION THAT YOU WOULDN'T HAVE GOTTEN OTHERWISE?

AND EVEN THOUGH THERE HAVE BEEN MULTIPLE INVESTIGATIONS, NONE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT, AS FAR AS WE KNOW.

SO THIS IS MORE A CASE OF, THIS LOOKS REALLY BAD.

BUT THAT NECESSARILY DOES NOT, NOT ANYTHING THAT HAS BEEN PROVEN THAT SOMEONE COULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR.

I GUESS IT DEPENDS.

TO THE EXTENT OF PAY TO PLAY, AN OBVIOUS NO-NO.

THAT HASN'T BEEN SHOWN BY ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT ENTITY.

BUT IT IS VERY PROVABLE THAT MONEY HAS GOTTEN DEVELOPERS, YOU KNOW, MORE RESPONSIVE FROM CITY HALL.

IT HAS GOTTEN THE MEETINGS WITH TOP LEVEL OFFICIALS IN THE GOVERNMENT.

AND THE AVERAGE JOE JUST, YOU KNOW, DOESN'T GET THE SAME TREATMENT.

AT TIMES PERHAPS.

SHOULD THE MAYOR CHOOSE TO RUN FOR OFFICE, WHAT SERVE BUZZING ABOUT, DOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS AFFECT HIM?

PART OF WHAT IT SEEMS LIKE HE'S ATTEMPTING TO PRESENT HIMSELF AS IS A MUCH MORE PROGRESSIVE, MORAL ALTERNATIVE TO THE OTHER CHOICES.

AND IT DEFINITELY POKES HOLES IN SOME OF HIS THEORIES OF HOW HE WANTS THE CITY TO BE.

HE ALWAYS REFERS TO IT AS WANTING TO MAKE NEW YORK AS THE FAIREST BIG CITY IN AMERICA.

PEOPLE MIGHT BE TEMPTED ON ASK, IS IT BETTER FOR PEOPLE WITH MONEY TO GET BETTER ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS?

WELL, I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ANOTHER REPORT THAT WE CAN FIND OUT A LITTLE BIT, PULLING THE CURTAIN BACK ON HOW MONEY IS BEING RAISED BY THE MAYOR AND CITY HALL.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

MY PLEASURE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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